Sunday 03 Jul 2022 | 02:16 | SYDNEY
Sunday 03 Jul 2022 | 02:16 | SYDNEY

Are we blasé about democracy?


Sam Roggeveen


7 June 2012 11:10

The Australian's Asia-Pacific Editor Rowan Callick (who was part of a panel discussion at the Lowy Institute on Tuesday to launch our annual poll) is, like many observers, concerned that Australians seem rather indifferent to democracy. The Lowy Institute's latest poll reveals that just 60% of Australians say democracy is preferable to any other kind of government, and only 39% of 18 to 29 year-olds.

Callick chalks this result up to 'relativist' teaching in our schools and universities and a 'rejection of earlier generations' values'. But in some respects, Australians have grown more respectful of the earlier generations' values. How do Callick's concerns about 'relativism' fit with the growing popularity of ANZAC Day, for instance?

Although the 18 to 29 year-old figure in particular is shocking, perhaps the whole result is partly explained by the fact that the question came in the context of a poll about global affairs and Australia's place in the world. Twenty-three percent of Australians said that 'in some circumstances a non-democratic government can be preferable', but that could be a comment on the world situation (eg. the mess that Western powers made in Iraq and Afghanistan while trying to establish democracies there, and the apparent success of authoritarianism in China) rather than on Australia.